After exiting Rugby World Cup 2019 at the quarter-final stage, following their heavy defeat to England, Michael Cheika’s turbulent tenure as head coach of the Wallabies is over.
Rugby Australia head honcho Raelene Castle has confirmed that they already have a list of names for the succession, and it’s been widely reported, from as early as March this year, that the name at the top of that list is Glasgow Warriors’ Dave Rennie.
Former SRU Director of Rugby Scott Johnson now holds the same position at Rugby Australia, and given his role in bringing Rennie to Glasgow, it’s clear that Johnson holds Rennie in high regard. And he’s not the only one.
The Kiwi may have a contract to stay at Scotstoun until the end of the current season, but on more than one occasion has inferred that Mrs Rennie finds it difficult to be so far away from the rest of the family back in New Zealand.
Whether it’s sooner rather than later, it seems we’re soon to see the back of Dave’s Rennie-gades. His brand of high-risk, high-reward, rugby made him the natural progression from Gregor Townsend, but who could potentially take over? Our Cammy put a poll out on Twitter with the following four suggestions:
Spent a season as player-coach at Glasgow in 15/16, before becoming assistant coach at Warriors the following season. Has been working with Scotland, initially on a part-time basis, under Townsend as skills coach, before moving full-time with the national side just a few months ago.
Played 85 times for Scotland, World Rugby Player of the Year nominee in 2008, a touring Lion of the 2009 series; as a player there’s no doubting his pedigree but has no experience as a head coach. Mind you, either did a certain Mr Townsend. Would be a gamble, and one of the cheaper options, which may leave supporters feeling short-changed.
Brought in by the SRU to assist Vern Cotter as backs shortly after RWC 2015, he then shifted west to join compatriot Rennie once Townsend had taken control of the national side.
He had the Scottish backline purring like a kitten with a bucketful of catnip, but with Townsend also leading Scottish attacks, may have been removed so as not to proverbially spoil the broth.
Has experience of being head coach back in NZ of the Manawatu Turbos in the provincial Mitre Cup competition. Quite famously once said he considered Scottish Rugby to be 20 years behind New Zealand in respect of sports psychology, so is certainly no shrinking violet. Could be a very shrewd appointment.
Has only just joined the SRU as Performance Director, so you would think he’d be given more time in that role before any permanent shift. However, if Rugby Australia come knocking early for Rennie and no other suitable candidate is available at the time, could potentially do the job on an interim basis.
Has by far the most experience of the candidates from this shortlist, having been head coach at Sale Sharks, England Saxons and a 10-year spell at Northampton Saints which included a Premiership title, 2 European Challenge Cups and an appearance in the Heineken Cup final.
Or Ratu Peni Rayani Latianara, to his Fijian mates. Won back-to-back Sevens World Series titles and Olympic gold with the Flying Fijians, which also earned him a Companion of the Order of Fiji award, and his face on a 50c coin. In terms of accolades, hard to top.
An outspoken, rugby purist, he can often be found venting his dismay about the state of the breakdown and what he views as shoddy treatment of tier-2 nations. Hasn’t been a head coach of XVs at the highest level though.
Currently employed by the SRU as a consultant, conducting a review into the performance department, but would his fondness for speaking his mind sit well with those on high?
A handful of other names were suggested by respondents:
Stuart Lancaster was popular, but he seems quite content with his coaching role at Leinster. After his nightmarish stint in charge of England, does he want to go back to being the figure-head?
Japan head coach Jamie Joseph will not be short of suitors considering how well the Brave Blossoms have performed at RWC 2019, and will have added an extra couple of quid to his remuneration package, so that probably rules him out.
Pat Lam of Bristol Bears was an interesting shout but seeing as he has an open chequebook and a project he wants to see through, would take some convincing.
We could do a swapsies with the Wallabies, and have Michael Cheika, who did tremendously well at Pro14 foes Leinster. Just remind me to pack a stab-proof vest for press conferences.
And, of course, just as night follows day, came the howls of “Bring back Vern!”
So, what say you, dear readers? Who do you think is best placed to carry on the work, and hopefully turn contenders back into champions?